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5:30 pm >> pelley: tonight, we'll talk to the president and mitt romney about their first debate here in denver. >> governor romney has shown himself to be a very good debater. >> pelley: do you think the debates are make or break for you? plus, nancy cordes, jan john dickerson on what could be a turning point in the race. bombs are turning one of the world's most historic cities into rubble-- at least 40 dead today. clarissa ward on who's behind it. most americans take supplements, but do they work? dr. jon lapook has the results of a new investigation. and anthony mason with unforgettable debate moments. >> there you go again. >> who am i? >> you're no jack kennedy. >> pelley: so give a listen. >> i'm all ears. captioning sponsored by cbs this is the "cbs evening news" with scott pelley reporting
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tonight from denver. >> pelley: good evening, president obama and mitt romney meet here tonight on the stage behind me at the university of denver for their very first debate. the stakes are high because 34 days before the election this race is still up for grabs. the latest poll of likely voters by the "wall street journal" shows the president with a three-point lead over governor romney, 49% to 46%. but that's within the margin of but that's within the margin of error, so it's very nearly a tie. the debate tonight is the first chance voters are going to have to size up the candidates side by side. we have a team of campaign 2012 correspondents covering the debate, but first, the candidates themselves. we caught up with the president and governor romney on the campaign trail. mr. president, the race as we speak is essentially tied. i wonder, do you think this is
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going to come down to the debates? >> well, i don't think that any single factor ends up making a big difference. i think the debates will matter to some undecided voters and to the extent that we present a very clear choice for the american people hopefully we'll be able to tease out what's at stake in this election. but i think the economy is still going to have a lot of bearing on it. overall, though, what i think is going to matter most to people is who do they think is going to be a strong and effective advocate on behalf of their hopes and their dreams? >> pelley: you could get asked any question under the sun at the debates. how do you prepare for that? >> well, the nice thing about having been president is i've been dealing with just about every issue for the last four years.
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so a lot of preparation for me is just trying to get back into game shape, as they say. hopefully what i'm going to be able to do is just present my case as effectively as i can. but governor romney has shown himself to be a very good debater and we take it very seriously. >> pelley: do you think the debates are make or break for you? >> i think they could decide the election for either one of us. look, we're basically in a tie, the president and i are. he's been president for four years, has outspent me massively in this campaign and yet he's still at a tie. and so the debates could well decide it one way or the other, i don't know. they may not have a lot of fireworks go off and perhaps they don't change things very much, but we're on track to win this. >> pelley: you know, in the debate you could get asked anything and i wonder, how do you prepare for that? >> well, i've been asked almost everything already. ( laughs ) and so my guess is i'll get--
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i'll get some questions i haven't expected but i know where i stand. i know why i'm running. i'm concerned about america. i'm concerned about the direction america has been put in. >> pelley: do you study films of the president's debates, past debates? i wonder how you get ready for that kind of thing? >> i talk about issues with my policy team. we talk about some of the more obscure issues that i don't get asked about from time to time, go through those, look over the kinds of things that are relevant to those issues. but i haven't looked at tapes of the president because, frankly, i want to make sure that what i say is precisely responsive to the questions that will be asked. >> pelley: president obama won the coin toss so he will get the first question tonight. both men have spent hours in private practicing against stand-in opponents. let's bring in white house correspondent nancy cordes, now. nancy, what does the president have to do here tonight? >> reporter: well, scott, obama campaign officials tell me the president is not coming into this debate looking for a slug- fest with governor romney.
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that he wants to have a substantive conversation. they think that benefits him. they say he looks at this debate sort of the same way he looked at his convention speech a few weeks ago as a way to reach a much larger audience of americans who are going to be tuning in and want to hear more about his plan specifically when it comes to the middle-class. so because so much of tonight's debate is going to be about the economy, they say we can expect a very frank assessment from him about where the economy was when he took office and what he's done to improve it. >> pelley: nancy, you mentioned the large audience. it's estimated more than 50 million americans will watch tonight. our chief political corespondent jan crawford is traveling with the romney campaign. jan, same question to you: what does the governor have to do? >> reporter: scott, romney had one final meeting with his advisors and they're telling me he sees tonight as his chance to show the american people they have a choice and to talk specifically about how his proposals will make their lives better. now, romney has told us the president's been saying a lot of things about his proposals that
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just aren't true-- like that he's going to raise taxes on the middle-class. he says that will end at tonight's debate. his aides say he'll try to prosecute the case on the economy against the president, scott, saying point blank "this economy cannot afford four more years of president obama." >> pelley: thanks, jan, also covering the debate is our cbs news political director john dickerson. john, what are the pitfalls that are facing the candidates possibly? >> for governor romney, he's got two jobs: one is to say why the president has failed and the second is to sell himself. to do that job, he has to be aggressive, kind of in the president's face. for the second job he has to offer something people find attractive so the challenge for him is getting the mix right. the challenge for the president is staying on script, talking about how he has been working for the middle-class and not getting knocked off by governor romney who he doesn't have a great deal of personal regard for. so he has to not look defensive. >> pelley: john, thank you very much. we'll be back later tonight with cbs news live coverage of the debate. that's 9:00 eastern time and
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6:00 in the west. today secretary of state hillary clinton promised a full and open investigation into the terror attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi, libya, three weeks ago. four americans, you'll recall, were killed, including ambassador chris stevens. there are a lot of questions about what happened. margaret brennan has been following this story and she's at the state department tonight. margaret? >> reporter: good evening, scott. the secretary of state reacted to pressure from the public, the press, and the house oversight committee to address the controversy around the administration's response to that attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi. were there multiple requests for increased security in tripoli and benghazi and can you address whether washington or your office rejected those requests? >> well, let me start by cautioning everyone against seizing on any single statement or piece of information to draw a final conclusion.
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over the course of this review there will naturally be a number of statements made, some of which will be borne out and some of which will not. >> reporter: clinton and her aides have consistently pointed to intelligence reports that indicated there was no threat to the u.s. mission and that it was intelligence agencies that initially said the attack was sparked by a spontaneous demonstration. >> i am aware, too, that many people are eager for answers. so am i, margaret. and no one wants the answers more than we do here at the department. >> reporter: senior aides are handing over e-mails and paperwork to congressional investigators who want to know who knew about the security situation in benghazi. the state department's own five- person review board begins this week. scott? >> pelley: margaret, thank you. in syria's civil war today, artillery fire apparently missed
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its mark, crossed the border and fell into neighboring turkey. five people were killed and a dozen were wounded. turkey responded by firing shells into syria and late today the white house said it stands with turkey, a u.s. ally. inside syria, one of the world's oldest cities is being turned into rubble. four massive bombs tore through the main square of aleppo today. the pictures are astounding. buildings were leveled, victims trapped, at least 40 dead. this was a city of three million people. the civil war began as a popular uprising against the assad dictatorship which has ruled syria 42 years. one of the most experienced war correspondents covering the civil war in syria is our clarissa ward. she's recently returned from aleppo and joins us now at the broadcast center in new york. clarissa, what can you tell us
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about who might have been behind these bombings today? >> reporter: well, scott, so far no group has actually claimed responsibility for today's attacks, but there is no doubt that there is an increasing number of extremist groups operating on the ground in syria. they're using the same kind of terrorist tactics that we've seen in iraq and afghanistan and part of the reason for that is this influx of foreign fighters that we've seen into the country. our crew actually spent time in a safe house on the border of turkey that was filled with fighters who had come from northern africa, from other countries, and they said they had come to syria to fight jihad. >> pelley: this civil war which began about 18 months ago to overthrow the dictatorship was in those days all about democracy and freedom from the assad regime but you seem to be saying that that's changing now. that the opposition is something very different. >> absolutely. there's been a real shift, if you like. one man told me, you know, if we're drowning and reach out our hand and ask for help from the
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west and you don't help us you can't expect us to die, we are going to take the hand of the person who will help us. in this case unfortunately that has turned out to be extremist groups. >> pelley: you were just in aleppo, syria's largest city, on assignment for "60 minutes." what was it like when you were there? >> it's impossible to overemphasize just how devastating the effect of the regime's constant bombardment has been on aleppo. both physically-- there are entire neighborhoods that have been reduced to smoking piles of rubble-- but also psychologically. people are living there in a constant state of fear. i sat down with a group of women who told me that they hadn't left the house in over a month. and when you hear the sound of the jets coming and you feel that sense of sickening dread, you understand just why that is. >> pelley: and no end in sight. clarissa, thanks very much. a deadly outbreak of meningitis has spread across five states.
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and what do the presidential candidates plan to do about immigration? when the "cbs evening news" continues from denver.
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>> pelley: a new report today may have people checking the labels on their dietary supplements. these supplements are big business with sales topping $30 billion last year. 84% of americans use them. but dr. jon lapook says that in many cases there's no way to know if they work.
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>> reporter: today's report found that 20% of supplements had labels that claim to treat a disease-- and that's illegal. for example, the government says this label for a product containing vitamins and a compound called dim complex is legal because it claims to boost the immune system and support overall health but it does not say it treats a specific disease. this label for a product containing algae and an herb called heal-all is illegal because it claims to treat diseases including herpes and the flu. melissa haffner was the lead analyst. >> this report raises questions about the extent to which these claims are truthful and not misleading. because f.d.a. doesn't have the ability to look at the substantiation behind the claims, there's really no way for them or consumers to know whether or not the claims are truthful. >> reporter: the f.d.a. has only limited power to regulate supplements because federal law classifies them as food not drugs. products are required to be safe
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but the f.d.a. only monitors them after they're on the market. when it comes to proof, supplement makers are only required to say research has been done, they are not required to show it to the f.d.a. the natural products association-- the main trade group of the supplement industry-- issued a statement saying: the investigators looked at 127 supplements that claim to boost the immune system or help with weight loss. none-- none-- met all of the f.d.a.'s recommendations for proving the products actually work. >> pelley: and we should mention, jon, the report we're referring to was produced today by the department of health and human services. there's another medical story that we're following tonight, jon, a deadly outbreak of meningitis. it has spread to five states, 26 people have been infected, four have died. a suspected source is tainted steroid injections that is used to treat back pain. the medication came from a pharmacy in massachusetts that
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issued a recall last week. jon, what have you been learning about all of this? >> reporter: scott, it is very important people realize this is not the kind of meningitis that typically spreads from person to person rapidly. it's caused by fungus, not bacteria. now, the feeling is there was a contaminated batch of steroids from a place up in boston... up in massachusetts, it was used to give back injections to relieve back pain. i spoke to one of the doctors who's down in tennessee and he is involved in treating the patients and he said that as of today there are at least 700 people who received injections, potentially contaminated with this fungus from the steroid batch. and then million-dollar question is how many of these people are going to go on to get meningitis. it is really not known because the incubation period is so slow, anywhere from a week to a month. so they're saying people who got back injections with steroids, be on the alert for any symptoms. >> pelley: jon, thank you. we'll be right back. dan hurd: when i was a child, california was a leader in education funding.
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erika derry: and the fact that california isn't making it a priority frustrates me.
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dan hurd: i'm ashamed of that, and i don't want this to continue for my daughter. brenda kealing: prop 38 is going to bring a lot of money to our schools. suzan solomon: the money stays at the school site. cade derry: what i would really like to see is that the teachers... that were laid off come back to the school. navaz hurd: a smaller class size. navaz hurd: as a mom i want that. as a teacher i want that. prop 38 is an opportunity of a generation. >> pelley: both presidential campaigns are courting hispanic voters and we're likely to hear about it tonight in the debate. so we asked anna werner to break down the two candidates' policies on immigration. >> reporter: the denver landscaping company where steve steele heads up operations employs 120 full-time u.s. workers. but steele says it's the part- time seasonal mexican labor force that keeps the engines humming. what would happen if you couldn't get those mexican workers? >> worst case?
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we'd go out of business. best case? we'd probably shrink by half to two-thirds. >> reporter: a federal guest worker program allows him to bring in some 85 seasonal workers to take jobs paying $9.20 an hour. jobs he says most colorado job seekers just don't apply for. steele wants a president who will allow those programs but crack down on businesses that hire undocumented workers. the health of his company rides on immigration policy. given that need, how do you figure out who to vote for? >> it's a difficult question. i saw a poll that said i think half of americans are not excited about either one of the candidates. i'll put myself in that category. >> reporter: it will be up to the two presidential candidates to convince undecided voters like steele in colorado and other swing states that they have immigration policies that will make the difference. president obama has focused on
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deporting immigrants with criminal records. he's proposed a program to allow immigrants without criminal records a path to citizenship. in june he ordered his administration to stop deporting some undocumented immigrants who arrived as children. they'll be able to obtain two- year visas to stay and work. >> a young person who comes to america is brought here, is raised here, is friends with our kids, is going to school with our kids, is american in every single way except for a piece of paper! ( cheers and applause ) >> reporter: this week mitt romney said he'll now allow people who got those visas under the president's program to keep them but would not grant new visas after taking office. romney supports letting those who arrived as children become legal residents or citizens by serving in the military. he opposes amnesty programs for illegal immigrants. >> i will prioritize efforts that strengthen legal immigration and make it more transparent and easier.
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and i'm going to address the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner. >> reporter: steele says labor- intensive businesses like his need certainty in immigration policies. he'll be waiting to hear if the candidates provide solid answers and long-term solutions. anna werner, cbs news, denver. >> pelley: in a moment, one of the most famous questions ever asked at a debate. >> who am i? ( laughter ) why am i here?
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>> pelley: these presidential debates are run by a commission that operates independently of the political parties. the campaigns have no say in the choice of the moderator and at every debate anthony mason reminds us there's no telling what might happen. >> we move over here, right? >> right. >> reporter: the first televised debate aired in 1960. >> good evening. >> reporter: and politics would never be the same. >> senator john f. kennedy. >> reporter: that night the young senator john kennedy looked cool and collected. and the experienced vice president richard nixon seemed uncomfortable, even sweaty. as the debate's producer, the late don hewitt, remembered. >> i looked at him on camera and i thought, oh, my god, this is trouble.
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>> reporter: the first lesson: the debates would not just be about what you said but how you looked when you said it. and mistakes could have huge consequences. in 1976 at the height of the cold war, president gerald ford mysteriously declared-- >> there is no soviet domination of eastern europe. >> reporter: he lost to jimmy carter. but in 1984, another incumbent, ronald reagan, used the debates to diffuse criticism of his advancing age. >> you already are the oldest president in history. >> reporter: he was 73 at the time. >> i am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. ( laughter ) >> "i was smiling" watt walter mondale later said "but i knew he'd gotten me there." other lessons, it may be best not to start your opening statement this way. >> who am i? why am i here? ( laughter ) >> reporter: as admiral james
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stockdale, ross perot's running mate did, in 1992. don't look like you have someplace better to be as president george bush did that same year when he checked his watch during a question. finally, be careful who you compare yourself to. >> i have as much experience in the congress as jack kennedy did. >> reporter: in 1988, vice presidential candidate dan quayle made that mistake against lloyd bentsen. >> i knew jack kennedy. jack kennedy was a friend of mine. senator, you're no jack kennedy. ( cheers and applause ) >> reporter: in the era of scripted and stage-managed candidates, the debates offer something increasingly dangerous-- the chance of a spontaneous moment. anthony mason, cbs news, new york. >> pelley: and that's the "cbs evening news." we'll be right back at 6:00 with tonight's debate. i'm scott pelley in denver. see you in a minute.
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